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Meet Suzanne Bakema

Suzanne is one of the Dutchies of our lieve Amsterdam International Women Network, the host our Dutch Language Club and we would love you to know her a little better. That’s why we’re sharing with you her answers to a quick interview that she kindly accepted to give us.

Hi Suzanne! 😊 Thank you for accepting our invitation to answer some questions as an international woman of our network!

1- To start with, tell us a little about yourself, the work you do, your hobbies, the most remarkable place you have visited abroad, things like that.

My name is Suzanne, and I currently work for Oikocredit which is a social investment company based in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. I’m a process and implementation specialist and for 7 years I worked in IT projects before I decided to quit my job and enjoy a break from everything. That break eventually lasted two years and made me change my career entirely. I have always been curious about the world, its history and stories, and love exploring new scenery, nature and cultures. This drive has brought me to more than 30 countries and I am sure I will never stop exploring. I love nature and capturing that in photography. I don’t do this professionally, but the person hiking with me needs a bit of patience as I will at some point interrupt to go off and capture that beautiful angle. Places I visit leave an emotional footprint on me and it makes each place valuable. I think from that context the most remarkable place(s) I have visited is Nicaragua and Japan. I was so done with the fast-paced life of consulting world, about making more money, buying more gadgets that I really needed to get out and reconnect to that part inside of us that will remain when all the riches disappear. These two countries helped me a lot in reframing my emotional state.

To end on a light note: I love (outdoor) activities and really just laughter. It was a part of my upbringing to find the positive and joyous side in things, even though things look bad. My mother is a big inspiration in this positive life attitude.

2- Where do you come from in Holland and why did you choose Amsterdam as your new home?

I’m from up north and had a fantastic childhood growing up in a small town (try beating 150 or 600 inhabitants). Though born a Drentse, I lived my whole youth in Friesland and consider myself Frisian. Unfortunately, I do not speak the Frisian language but it did give me a bilingual upbringing as my family was the only “Dutch speaking” family in town. From the age of 17 I have lived on my own and practically never lived longer than 2 consecutive years on one address. The house-hopping probably would have continued in Amsterdam and beyond, if I hadn’t ended up buying an apartment that I still own today. 😊

Though Amsterdam has this magical vibe for many Dutch, me choosing this city was more out of practical reasons. The hiring company obligated me to move to the Randstad and back in 2010 quite some friends were living in Amsterdam. Fun fact is that many of them have moved away since and I’m still in the city. I can still enjoy a stroll along the canals and my eye will always catch something new. The houses, the streets, the people, they all tell a story. And covid made me connect to my neighbourhood even more (Staatsliedenbuurt).

3- For how long have you been living here and how is it going with adapting to the multicultural Amsterdam style? Do you see any differences between here and your home town?

10 years already! Can you imagine that? When I think about that I just want to move, so many new places to explore ha ha. Maybe I should find that job to work remotely and just take off once a while to soothe that travel bug. The difference with the town I grew up in couldn’t be bigger. That town changed into a multicultural town with the adoption of two children from an African country (uuuuh). However, my parents are not from up north and I have family living all over the Netherlands and abroad. The security and community feeling from my upbringing is very appealing yet I enjoy the perks of living in Amsterdam. I wish I could have the best of both worlds!

4- Socially: Do you hang out mostly with fellow Dutchies or is your social life more multi-culturally oriented?

It used to be only fellow Dutchies, somehow it’s difficult to mingle the international community and the Dutch, at least in the Randstad. But also with the Dutch, people tend to be more private here compared to where I am from. I got used to it though. As I have lived all over the Netherlands I have friends in many places. Since I work for Oikocredit and being the only Dutch in the team I hang out with them regularly. That counts as multicultural, right? 😉

5- How did you get to know the Amsterdam International Women and how has been your experience with the Dutch Language Club so far?

In 2019, when I got back after my two year sabbatical I needed a change. I wasn’t sure what and considered multiple things like language cafés, MeetUp, and volunteering. That is how I got to know the AIW club and it left such a good impression. Lots of kudos for Paula as it is her dedication that makes this group work. In April this year Paula and I discussed having language clubs reintroduced now that the pandemic is slowly making way for normal life again. The Dutch language club is still very new with the first meeting held in May. It was such a good day, we had a small picknick while getting to know each other. In all very nice and relaxed, and I was impressed by the Dutch level of the ladies. Btw, next Dutch picknick will be in June!

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